Mary C. Van Evera, a lifelong Duluthian, died peacefully at home on April 13, 2018, age 96.
The eldest child of Dorothy House and Edward Chester Congdon, she grew up in Duluth, attended the Masters School (Dobbs Ferry, NY), Vassar College (’43, economics) and Radcliffe (’44, MA). She served in WWII with the Red Cross in El Paso, Texas.
In 1946 Mary married William P. Van Evera of Crosby, Minn., in the garden of her childhood home at 415 Hawthorn Rd. Their first child was born the next year, so beginning a busy life combining family life with committed community activism. Deeply engaged as both a local and global citizen, Mary was always willing to pursue and advocate for causes that were close to her heart. From 1988-2005 she wrote and presented a weekly commentary for KUMD Radio’s Morning Edition in which she highlighted matters of local and international import in current affairs. She was also a devoted supporter of the arts – music, theater, dance, visual arts, poetry.
She was actively involved with the Duluth Junior League, League of Women Voters (local and state), the City Planning Commission, Human Development Center, United Way, Planned Parenthood, Matinee Musicale, Duluth-Superior Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Arrowhead Chorale, amongst others.
A founding board member of the Guthrie Theater, Mary served on the Duluth Public Library board and was a trustee of Vassar College and of Northland College. She was instilled by family elders and teachers with a strong ethic of civic responsibility and philanthropy. Further organizations that benefited from her work and involvement include the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute at Northland College, Peace Action, DFL Party, Global Awareness Fund, International Women’s Forum and Brule River Preservation.
Several such involvements had taken root through interests held by her mother. A strong advocate of disarmament and efforts toward world peace, Mary took on the mantle of Dorothy’s support for the Institute for World Order, becoming chair of the board in 1982 (and seeing it through its transformation into the World Policy Institute), supporting the Center for International Policy and, locally, sponsoring the College of St Scholastica’s Peace & Justice Center, as well as their music program.
Mary’s instinct to stir people to engage was also social. Over the years, she enjoyed hosting buzzing gatherings of friends and family at her Waverly Ave home and at the beloved cabin on the Brule River, her international outlook often reflected in adventurous foodstuffs. Mary and Bill also provided a home to a succession of international exchange students attending UMD.
Mary was a lifelong member and supporter of Pilgrim Congregational Church.
She was preceded in death by her husband William, her brother Stephen H. Congdon, daughter-in-law Beth Rogers and granddaughter Dorie Reichert, and is survived by her brother, Thomas E. Congdon (Noey), her children, Kitty (Jacob Waters), Stephen, Gretchen (Hizkias Assefa) and Emily (Andrew Parrott), seven grandchildren and large extended family.
Her memorial service will be held at 4 PM Wednesday, June 6, 2018 at Pilgrim Congregational Church, 2310 E 4th St, Duluth, MN.
Memorial donations may be made to Pilgrim Church Memorial Fund, Northland College, United Way, and to the charity of the donor’s choosing.
Arrangements by Dougherty Funeral Home, Duluth, 218-727-3555.
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